Being a parent, I have often felt the desire to step in to do something that my children are capable of doing themselves. It is tough teaching children to be responsible. Helicopter parenting is the norm these days. In the past our grandparents walked miles to school by themselves and our parents walked blocks to school by themselves but we are of a generation that believes that danger lurks two doors down from the home. It is hard to raise independent kids if we teach them not to trust anyone but us. I am a huge fan of the blog written by Lenore Skenazy. She also wrote a book called Free-Range Kids:Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry that debunks most of the fears we parents have allowed to permeate our psyche. She explains how and why this generation of parents has fallen for the idea that nothing is safe anymore.

I must admit that as a child I was not given many household responsibilities. Being hounded to clean up my room is not a memory that I have though I remember happily keeping my private space clean while spending hours in my room as a teenager with the door closed listening to music, talking on the phone and rearranging my possessions. I was, however, given tremendous amounts freedom. My siblings and I were outside all day until we heard my mother calling us in—not knowing where we were each and every moment and not worrying about us. It wasn’t until those teenage years that the leash seemed to tighten.

How to teach our children to be responsible begins early. Allowing them to have more control of their personal hygiene—teeth brushing, bathing and dressing—gives them pride. It is not always easy to let your child walk out the door in their outfit of choice but it teaches them to trust their own instincts and provides a sense of self (even if it means plaid with stripes).

Giving your children jobs around the house that are not part of an allowance exemplifies that they are part of a family which needs everyone working together to work. My children take turns setting and clearing the table at dinner (each one does one part for the whole week and then switches to avoid the fighting over whose turn it is to do what). This really makes a huge difference to my evening—as meal planner, food shopper and chef it is a joy not to have to be stuck in the kitchen for another hour after dinner cleaning and it allows me to enjoy more time with my children at night as everything gets done much more quickly.

Teaching that work (responsibilities) comes before play by creating a rule of homework before TV also teaches that not all responsibilities are going to be fun but they still need to be done.

In my yoga classes, I try to find ways to encourage independence. I set my mats up before class in a circle to ease the beginning of class but everyone must roll up the studio mats and put them away after class. Even the little guys try —their rolls are lopsided and don’t look too tidy— but they leave feeling pride and I fix them when they have gone. Are there other ways that you help teach responsibility to your children or students? I’d love to hear about them!